Building a Solid Content Strategy
Fresh content is the fuel that keeps your lead generation engine running.
That’s not an overstatement; it’s just a fact. When you have great content posted on your website, blog, and social media profiles, you naturally get more traffic than you did in the past. Buyers find their way to your website through search engines (which index the content), social accounts (where your updates show up on followers’ feeds), and even email newsletters. If they are impressed enough with your ideas, they’ll keep reading or clicking. And the more they view, the more familiar they will become with your business.
Through that process, generating more and more content expands the reach of your sales funnel. It allows you to touch more of your perfect potential customers and bring them to the pages you want them to see. In that way, all the new articles or ideas you post online make up the top layer of your sales funnel. They represent your first point of contact with potential buyers, so it’s important that they be relevant and insightful.
What Do Your Customers Want to Read or See?
One of the reasons I advise you to pay so much attention to the specifics of your market has to do with the fact that you want to know what your very best prospects are thinking about when they arrive on your website. The closer you can get to reading their minds, the easier it will be for you to design content that seems to speak directly to the wants and needs they feel so acutely.
Make a list of all the things you know about the buyers you want to attract. Then, think about what sorts of topics might naturally grab their attention. What kinds of articles or videos would they be almost literally unable to click away from? What would interest them so much that they wouldn’t dare click away without seeing what you have to share?
This is an area where a little bit of market research can go a long way. If you aren’t sure what your customers want, interview some of them. Or visit their online forums to see what they discuss. Subscribe to the magazines or newsletters they do, and even think about attending some of their conferences.
This might seem like a lot of effort, but it’s worth it. When you are able to focus on the kinds of topics that feel irresistible to your prospects, you have the big themes that will drive your content plan forward. You know what your customers or clients are looking for, and which titles or headlines stop them in their tracks.
You can’t bring people into your sales funnel without interesting and relevant content. Devote as much time and energy as you need to understand what it is they want to learn and hear about.
With Content, Quantity and Quality Both Matter
Sometimes, new clients ask us whether they need lots of content to get their lead generation plans moving or just a few polished articles and reports. The most realistic answer is that they need a little bit of both. In other words, it does usually take a consistent effort to post fresh material every week in order to get a new website noticed by search engines and customers. At the same time, though, it’s not enough to simply recycle the same ideas your competitors are using. You need a unique voice and point of view.
Just think about all the low-quality content there is spread all over the internet. Have you ever found yourself looking for an answer to an important question and coming across one piece of recycled junk after another? How long did you spend on any of those pages?
Low quality can help you get search visits, but can’t help you impress your prospects. That’s important to remember because, as I’ve already stated, your goal isn’t to get visits. If anything, it’s better to have fewer people come to your website and be very impressed with your messaging than it is to draw in thousands upon thousands of searchers who immediately leave.
The bottom line, then, is that the quantity of your content does matter. More is better than less, especially as you’re putting together your sales funnel. When in doubt, though, emphasize quality over quantity every time.
Content Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes
Years ago, “content marketing” meant posting a series of 500-word articles to your blog. That’s not necessarily a bad idea, but I would encourage you to think in bigger and broader terms when it comes to outlining your content strategy.
For one thing, not all of your content has to be written. In the old days, marketers preferred brief articles and posts because that’s what Google liked to see. Now, though, the biggest search engines can all use advanced algorithms to scan text, images, and even speech or displayed words and marketing videos. They can look through attachments in a number of different file types. They can even “read” different types of content to scan for contextual relevance or obvious errors (like typos and grammatical problems) that can indicate the trustworthiness of a piece.
You should be aware of this and structure your content plan appropriately. You might still rely on articles, for example, but don’t forget to mix things up with the occasional report or video. Post longer material if that’s what’s needed to explain something, or upload a snippet that makes it easy for fans and followers to share your content on social media.
Each of these has value so long as it’s interesting and relevant to your target market. Content comes in many shapes and sizes, and they can all be valuable if they appeal to your customer base.
Developing a Content Plan
If you’re going to be a regular producer of relevant, unique, and high-quality content, it’s going to require a consistent effort. You won’t just be able to sit down at your keyboard or favorite photo editing suite whenever you feel the inspiration – you’re going to have to make a plan and stick to it.
For this I typically recommend clients work from an editorial calendar. This is the same kind of document magazine publishers and television producers use. It’s simply a schedule with upcoming segments that happen to align with current news, emerging themes, and known annual or seasonal activities (like holidays or big industry conventions).
The advantage of using an editorial calendar is that it keeps you on track when you might otherwise be out of ideas to write or post about. And, it brings a sense of focus to your marketing activities so that what you put online goes well with the offers or campaigns you’re running. It means you’re never stuck posting something random, or forgetting to post to your blog or social profiles at all.
Also, by working from an editorial calendar, you can develop ideas (like a series of blog posts, a downloadable PDF report, and a series of infographics) so they work in tandem. That way, someone who views one part of your content marketing plan can see links to all the others.
Developing content is a big job, so don’t leave things to chance or your moods. Put a plan in place with dates and themes that you can follow. Over time, it might make all the difference in your lead generation efforts.
Finishing Your Content the Right Way
If it’s easy to find yourself with nothing to write or post about, then know there is just as big a risk in getting carried away with your artistic impulses. Hard as it might be to believe, I work with a lot of business owners who’ve come to love the process of writing, drawing, and engaging followers on social media. It goes from being a chore to a labor of love.
That’s good for the quality and frequency of their content, but it’s important to always remember that your content has a job. Specifically, you’re posting it because you want prospects to enter your sales funnel. Knowing that, it’s important to always put the right finishing touches on anything that will go on your blog or social feed.
The first thing you need to finish your content is a quick quality check. Nothing should go out to actual prospects until it has been reviewed and proofread at least a couple of times. Remember, your credibility is on the line, so you don’t want to rush things.
In some cases, you might want to add some sort of unique branding. For example, many businesses will watermark their images so that anyone who comes across them will be able to trace them back to the right company or product. That’s a good idea if you’re worried that others will copy or steal your materials.
Finally, the most important part of your content revision process should always involve a call to action. This is an invitation for any viewer, reader, or prospect who is interested by your visuals or ideas. The call to action can be a link to another article, a prompt that takes them to an online report, or even a graphic that leads prospects to some sort of contact form.
Every time someone follows your call to action, they take one step deeper into your sales funnel. They go from their first initial contact and impression toward the next step, which is usually a little bit more substantial. Get them to follow enough of these steps, and you have a strong sales opportunity.
Visitors can’t turn into leads if they don’t have a path to follow. By finishing every piece of content – every article, video clip, or even image post – with an invitation, you make it easy for them to take the next step and do what you want them to.
Content Is the Cornerstone of Lead Generation
The content on your website, blog, and social feeds could arguably be considered the most important part of your sales funnel. It has to draw in the right kinds of prospects, impress them with your ideas, and convince them to move from one stage in their search to another.
That might seem like a lot to hope for, but remember that you follow a similar buyer’s journey all the time in your own personal and professional lives. So do your potential customers or clients. Get to know what kind of content they want and need and you’ll be halfway to finding a renewable source of online leads.
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